Ro­tar­i­ans want your bikes for Ped­als for Progress

The Advance of Bucks County - - BRISTOL AREA - By Jeff Werner

NEW­TOWN – Used bi­cy­cles may be a dime a dozen here, but in the de­vel­op­ing nations of the world, they’re gold.

In the poor and im­pov­er­ished vil­lages that dot Latin Amer­ica, Africa and Eastern Europe, one used bike can lit­er­ally lift a fam­ily out of poverty, said Dave Ssh­wei­den­back, the founder and CEO of Ped­als for Progress.

Ev­ery year, his U.S.-based or­ga­ni­za­tion ships thou­sands of do­nated bikes over­seas to part­ner or­ga­ni­za­tions, which re­con­di­tion the bikes and then re­sell them at a low price to poor work­ing adults.

By pro­vid­ing mo­bil­ity for the move­ment of goods and ser­vices, Sch­wei­den­back said bi­cy­cles can lit­er­ally turn a vil­lage’s econ­omy around and point it in the di­rec­tion of pros­per­ity.

“It’s all about go,” he said. “You have to go to work. You have to go to school. You have to move your goods and ser­vices if you want a suc­cess­ful econ­omy. Right now, in many of these vil­lages, all they have is walk­ing. If you can give them the mo­bil­ity they need they can be­come suc­cess­ful in their own right,” rea­sons Sch­wei­den­back.

“We’re try­ing to cre­ate a more vi­brant, eco­nomic place. We’re try­ing to grow the econ­omy,” said Sch­wei­den­back.

But be­fore Ped­als for Progress can carry out its mis­sion over­seas, it needs help from home in the form of do­na­tions of used bikes.

For the past decade, the New­town Rotary has held a lo­cal col­lec­tion drive, bring­ing in be­tween 1,500 and 2,000 bi­cy­cles over the years.

And this Satur­day, they’ll do it again with its 10th an­nual Ped­als for Progress drive from 9 a.m. to noon in the park­ing lot across from Olde Saint An­drew Church on Sy­camore Street.

Used bikes, as well as sewing ma­chines, can be dropped off any­time dur­ing the drive. Or­ga­niz­ers are ask­ing for a $10 do­na­tion per bike and sewing ma­chine to help de­fray the cost of ship­ping.

Bi­cy­cles should be rel­a­tively rust free. Other than that, bikes will be ac­cepted no mat­ter what the con­di­tion, even if it has flat tires or frayed wiring. Three wheel tri­cy­cles will not be ac­cepted.

Bike drive co­or­di­na­tor Dr. Jerry Agasar said he ap­pre­ci­ates the community’s sup­port over the past 10 years and en­cour­ages them to come out again and to spread the word to their neigh­bors.

“Take a look in your garage and base­ment and see if you have a bike you’d like to do­nate,” he said.

“We are very for­tu­nate in this coun­try to have what we have, es­pe­cially liv­ing in this area,” said Agasar. “But not ev­ery­one has the ed­u­ca­tion, the eco­nom­ics to help them­selves. This is a great way to help oth­ers in this world. We’re all con­nected,” he said. “It’s about ser­vice above self. That’s what Rotary is all about. It’s a win­win.”

“And why put some­thing in a land fill when there’s some­one who re­ally needs it,” says Sch­wei­den­back, adding that New­town’s gen­eros­ity over the years has made a huge and last­ing im- pact in these vil­lages.

This year the do­na­tions will be shipped to Rivas, Nicaragua where the econ­omy is lit­er­ally on the move, thanks in no small part to Ped­als for Progress and the mo­bil­ity it has brought to the mar­ket­place there.

Sch­wei­den­back said his or­ga­ni­za­tion has placed more than 35 per­cent of the adult pop­u­la­tion of Rivas on wheels, cre­ated a self-sup­port­ing lo­cal bi­cy­cle im­port, assem­bly and re­pair busi­ness and has no­tice­ably boosted lo­cal eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

“The econ­omy of Rivas is a boom­ing econ­omy, maybe one of the only ones in the coun­try. That town is a vi­brant mar­ket­place with al­most full em­ploy­ment, which is un­heard of in all the other towns. And the dif­fer­ence is, is that ev­ery­one has a bike to get to work,” said Sch­wei­den­back.

Since it started its lo­cal cam­paign in Rivas, Ped­als has shipped about 20,000 bikes and close to 300 sewing ma­chines to the Nicaraguan vil­lage.

Their ef­forts to bring the war-torn city back to life are cap­tured in a new doc­u­men­tary now un­der de­vel­op­ment. A por­tion of it can be viewed at TheBi­cy­cleCity.com.

But Rivas is not the only community ben­e­fit­ing from Ped­als.

“This spring, I shipped a con­tainer to ev­ery con­ti­nent,” said Sch­wei­den­back. “I shipped two to Cen­tral Amer­ica, one to Africa, one to Eastern Europe and one to Viet­nam and Asia,” he said.

When those con­tain­ers arrive, Sch­wei­den­back said, “It’s like Christ­mas, New Year’s and your birthday all lumped to­gether. There’s one town that ev­ery time the bikes ar­rived they have a parade.”

“For me, my great­est sat­is­fac­tion is when I shut the doors on a con­tainer on Satur­day and I know they are go­ing to open in six weeks some­place else, some­place where they are needed and will make a tremen­dous dif­fer­ence,” he said.

A trip into town to do the fam­ily shop­ping

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